The Trump administration is working to overthrow the government of Venezuela. They are not at this time doing this by military invasion, nor by funneling thousands of armed militants into the country, nor even solely with starvation sanctions and CIA ops. The first and foremost means of overthrowing Venezuela’s government currently being utilized by the United States government is the low-risk, low-cost plan to simply control the stories that everyone tells themselves about who is in charge in Venezuela.
Adept manipulators understand that humans are storytelling animals. The only thing keeping the powerful powerful, keeping money operating the way it operates, and keeping government running the way it runs is the stories we all agree to tell each other about those things. If everyone collectively decided today that poker chips are the new currency and Kim Kardashian is the Supreme Ruler of the Entire World, those stories would be the new reality, and tomorrow we’d all be doing whatever Empress Kim commands and Las Vegas would be the new Wall Street.
The Trump administration is exploiting this exact principle in Venezuela by singling out some guy named Juan and calling him Mister President, despite the fact that he’s never received a single vote for that office and holds no actual power. If they can persuade enough Venezuelans (particularly the ones with the big guns) and the rest of the world’s governments to do the same, then Guaido will indeed become the functional president of the country.
Everything the Trump administration does to Venezuela is done with the goal of controlling the stories people tell about it. They smash the country with starvation sanctions, then tell everyone to believe that Maduro is starving his people. They stage a “humanitarian aid” stunt on Venezuela’s border, then they lie and tell everyone that Maduro is blocking all aid to Venezuela and setting aid trucks on fire, because he wants to starve the hungry and kill the sick. It’s all about controlling the narrative with the goal of changing who is recognized as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
We saw this illustrated especially clearly in a recent press briefing with the State Department’s “Special Representative for Venezuela”, war criminal Elliott Abrams. Abrams was asked by a reporter to “explain to us the article under which Mr. Guaido declared himself president” because “It is said that it has expired last month.”
Indeed, when Guaido declared himself interim president back in January we were told that it would be a month-long position in the interim while a new election is prepared. As Reuters reported at the time, “Venezuela’s constitution says if the presidency is determined to be vacant, new elections should be called in 30 days and that the head of the congress should assume the presidency in the meantime.”
But, since the Trump administration’s coup-by-narrative has not gone as planned, Abrams stumbled all over himself informing the press that the goalposts of the story have been moved:
ABRAMS: As to the Venezuelan constitution, the National Assembly has passed a resolution that states that that 30-day period of interim presidency will not start ending or counting until the day Nicolas Maduro leaves power. So the 30 days doesn’t start now, it starts after Maduro. And they – that’s a resolution of the National Assembly.
QUESTION: When did they – they did that after he —
ABRAMS: They did that – this is roughly a month ago. We could try to find the date for you.
QUESTION: When he was – when he was – took the mantle of interim president, that wasn’t there.
ABRAMS: Yes, when – that’s correct. And so people —
QUESTION: Can you do that ex post facto like that?
ABRAMS: When people ask a question how do —
QUESTION: That seems to be like saying I was elected for four years to be president, and then two years in you change the rules so that your term didn’t start – hasn’t even started yet. How does that happen?
ABRAMS: Well, you don’t get a vote because you’re not in the National Assembly.
QUESTION: Well, you don’t. You’re not in the National Assembly either.
QUESTION: If it matters, does the U.S. view that as constitutional under their system?
MR ABRAMS: Yes. I mean, we’re taking the – the National Assembly is the only legitimate democratic institution left in Venezuela, and their interpretation of the constitution, as you know, is that as of the date of this alleged term for Maduro, the presidency is vacant. But they have also said that that 30-day period starts when Maduro goes.
QUESTION: So Juan Guaido is the interim president of an interim that doesn’t exist yet?
MR ABRAMS: The 30-day end to his interim presidency starts counting. Because he’s not in power, that’s the problem. Maduro is still there. So they have decided that they will count that from when he actually is in power and Maduro’s gone. I think it’s logical.
QUESTION: So then he really isn’t interim president, then?
MR ABRAMS: He is interim president, but he’s not —
QUESTION: With no power.
MR ABRAMS: — able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.
QUESTION: So their interpretation is that until and unless he actually has the power to run the country, he’s not actually the interim president?
MR ABRAMS: No. Their interpretation is that the constitution requires a 30-day interim period, but it – those 30 days should not be counted while Maduro is still there exercising the powers of his former office.
#Venezuela | So #JuanGuaido is the interim president of an interim that doesn’t exist yet?#NicolasMaduro #ElliottAbrams #HandsOffVenezuela pic.twitter.com/IXyl9OBOQA
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) March 19, 2019
So to recap, Guaido is still the president of Venezuela after his 30-day window closed because his interim presidency doesn’t currently exist, and because he has no power. By those standards, I’m just as much president of Venezuela as Guaido is. Where’s my meeting with Mike Pence?
But of course facts don’t figure into this equation at all, because this is a coup by narrative. As we discussed yesterday, narrative always takes precedence over fact in these games. They will keep referring to Juan the guy as “President Guaido”, despite the admitted fact that he does not actually have any of the powers or recognition that an actual president has, and despite the fact that there is currently a guy in Caracas who does have all those things. They will keep advancing this narrative control war until it either succeeds or fails, and in the case of the latter they’ll change tactics and try something else.
The battle for power is the battle to control as many humans as possible, and the battle to control as many humans as possible is the battle to control the stories those humans are telling each other. Humans are storytelling animals, so if you can control the stories you can control the humans. Understand this and you’ll understand the behaviors of governments and media around the world.
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Kevin Beck / March 30, 2019
Did the Venezuela National Legislature hire that imbecile Elliott Abrams to create this special variation to the interim presidency clause? It sure seems like, since his explanation makes as much sense as if the village idiot came up with idea.
Yes, I know; I used both terms “imbecile” and “idiot” in that statement. That is because I am referring to John Bolt-On as the village idiot in the scenario. His stupidity deserves special qualification.
Do these two even consider the sensibility of their positions? It’s the equivalent of saying that Donald Trump is no longer President of the United States, and that Hillary Clinton is…just because some un-elected and legally powerless group of political hacks decided it is now that way.
Also, I don’t think the Venezuela Constitution has a provision that allows any government outside its own borders to unilaterally decide that someone ISN’T their President. Maybe Abrams can find that provision for me and the rest of us non-Venezuelans.
mehitabel / March 23, 2019
This is what the State Department is telling foreign audiences
Robert Emmett / March 21, 2019
t. Rump president Fires Elected Leader. Is this not expected? He’s Fired barks the barker. ApparatUS sez, we can sell the shit out of this. New speak at 11. Ratings through the Roof Roof! But I enjoyed your version, too, Ms Johnstone.
Ethan Allen / March 21, 2019
Re: Caitlin Johnstone
The more familiar with the quality of your work I become, the more I believe it deserves greater circulation and recognition.
Thanks again for this timely example of the duplicity and corruption of Elliott Abrams; he has a long and sordid history of misdeeds in our hemisphere all the way back to the Nixon years.
PS Sorry for the mistaken double posting and the complaint about CAPTCHA……I’m in recovery, from impatience.
Jess / March 21, 2019
Abrams looks like an unholy cross between Gargamel and my childhood parish priest (yes, he was later defrocked for bad things; no I was not one of his victims). Which is to wonder, when the casting directors were looking for a henchperson to run this scam, how on Earth did they come up with this guy? Children cry when they look at him. Ignoring his perjury conviction, surely someone more telegenic could have been found? It *almost* makes me wonder if they actually want to “win” this time. Even TPTB, if they’re being honest with themselves, have to feel better about events in Syria than about those in e.g. Libya. Maybe they feel trapped by the momentum (and enormous financial compensation) of farcical shit like this, but can appoint an ultimately ineffective guy as a sort of work-to-rule attempt to soothe their abused consciences? “We don’t understand?! He did such a good job in Guatemala and El Salvador!”
chucknobomb / March 20, 2019
I Hope and Pray (Agnostic etc.) The U.S. Empire Dies. Have a nice day. Power and Peace to the People…
Spanky / March 20, 2019
Narrative control… hence the need to censor the internet.
Peer to peer communication, to any significant degree, cannot be allowed if narrative control is to be maintained. The intelligence “community” and Wall Street foresaw this need years ago, thus their strategic “investments” in social media and elevation of its founders and CEOs to billionaire status, despite their companies’ inability to generate profits commensurate with their stock valuations.
Data collection and spying aside, the real reason for their existence now comes to the fore: The ability to censor both content and persons. Television and radio, both under corporate control, were reliable partners when it came to narrative control and successfully maintained that control for many years. What we witness now is nothing less than internet tech giants joining the radio and TV club.
It is impossible to have republican (or democratic) self-governance in the face of official secrecy. Secrecy creates power thru asymmetries of knowledge. And once secret knowledge rules, narrative control becomes necessary to maintain that power.
Roy Little / March 20, 2019
Congratulations, Caitlin, this article hit the button! I have lived in Venezuela for 30 years now and have seen many changes. Since the election of Chávez in 1998, there has always existed about a 60-40 percentage between Chavistas and Anti-chavistas. From the beginning, I have tried to understand the Antichavistas but have never been able to carry on a sensible discussion with any of them; now the world can begin to understand why, starting with your article. For a more general, background, type of discussion of the same issue I recommend the late Robert Parry’s book, America’s Stolen Narrative.
Ethan Allen / March 20, 2019
Re: ROY LITTLE
I agree with what you’ve said here and thanks for your valuable perspective. Your referral to the late Robert Parry’s writing is also spot on. The website he began, https://consortiumnews.com/, is one of the very first dependable sites for investigative journalism on the web; his son has taken up his father’s efforts.
Ethan Allen / March 21, 2019
With regards to Consortiumnews, the Australian members here may be particularly interested in the latest article on the site by its editor Joe Lauria. It tells of the blocking of Julian Assange’s Mom from her Twitter feed.
GaryS / March 20, 2019
Agreed on the narrative–we’re gonna have to change it up.
The people in Venezuela are Latinos–30% of the US military forces are Latino. Anybody who is not brain dead understands that this is a war of conquest. Will people of a like culture knowingly destroy someone’s home and country because some Zionist asshole– has ordered that it must be done. Perhaps not!
There is also a Veterans for Peace Stand-down petition circulating the internet [https://www.veteransforpeace.org/pressroom/news/2019/03/15/veterans-call-us-troops-resist-illegal-orders-invade-venezue]. Time for the global community to stand-up in solidarity for the people of Venezuela–Rage, rage, against the machine!
norecovery / March 20, 2019
The US Government no longer considers any Constitution to be the basis of law or policy if it doesn’t comport with their assumed prerogatives, and foreign policy is purely based on “might makes right”. Their hubris is only restrained in this case by the knowledge that Russia has deadly powerful stealth subs and hypersonic missiles to back up their expressed intention to prevent a military takeover by the US. Otherwise, it is likely a naval blockade would already be in place and the bombs would be falling on Caracas.
David Spero / March 20, 2019
Who was that reporter asking those questions? We need about 100 more like them. That would change the narrative.
Tom Welsh / March 20, 2019
I don’t know, but it sounded like Matt Lee. Especially in the persistence.
Palloy / March 20, 2019
Abrams: “… the National Assembly is the only legitimate democratic institution left in Venezuela, …”
This is FALSE. The National Assembly has been held in contempt by the Supreme Court for allowing members to be declared elected when there are severe doubts about the legitimacy of their election, and not holding fresh elections. As such the National Assembly is not a legitimate democratic institution. It has no valid power and cannot make legally valid declarations.
The whole narrative of the US being bothered about “the poor Venezuelan people” is pathetic. The humanitarian aid confrontation was a pathetic failure, and it is all dragging on for too long because the Army is not going to defect.
CIA has failed again.
Varys / March 20, 2019
“Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow. ”
— Varys, in Game of Thrones.
Perry / March 20, 2019
Abrams just provided testimony that the US has illegally stolen Venezuelan Property. The US government has been using the fact that Gaido is President now to have him order that Venezuelan diplomatic property must be seized, and I think also Venezuelan oil and other assets. If Gaido is not the President now, then he has no power to order any of this. Abrams was saying that the 30 days that Gaido has to be President doesn’t start until Maduro is gone, thus it is now Abrams testimony that Gaido has no authority to order the change of management of Citgo or to change diplomats representing Venezuela.
Tom Welsh / March 20, 2019
Haven’t you heard? The US government has the power to steal anything, imprison, torture or kill anyone, invade any country, and force everyone to repeat its lies.
It’s all written down in the hidden constitution.
Oh sorry, I forgot you can’t – because it’s hidden.
Spanky / March 20, 2019
Don’t cha know it’s for their own good, poor dears. Brown-skinned folks from the southern hemisphere simply don’t understand their own bestus interests. We, the almighty Yankees of Wall Street and Washington, always know what is best (our profit$) for unfortunate and lost souls considering our exceptional R2P — even if we must (reluctantly) kill a few hundred thousands to pave the way toward enlightenment and democracy…
Don’t fuck with the narrative, what you don’t know is common knowledge, but cannot be revealed here because it’s classified.
Roy Little / March 21, 2019
Although it may be moot (that is, he may not be around much longer in cyberspace), a useful mnemonic to help remember Guaidó’s name is:
One Why Dog. 🙂